The bright colors and intoxicating scents of the holiday season
are enough to transform any moping mutt or cranky cat from
melancholy to downright jolly. Unfortunately, many of the
delights and decorations of the holidays pose significant risks
to companion animals.
Here are some safety tips to help keep pets safe and healthy for
many holidays to come.
Pine needles can lodge in an animal's esophagus, making it
difficult or impossible for your pet to swallow. Even drinking
water from the Christmas tree base is enough to cause diarrhea,
mouth sores, vomiting and loss of appetite. Cover your tree stand
tightly with skirting and distract your companion animal from
temptations with holiday toys and treats. If your pet is having
difficulty fighting the temptation to drink from the tree base or
chew on the needles, make sure your pet does not have access to
this area after you’ve gone to bed, either by closing it off with
a door, or even a toddler gate will work.
Deck the Halls
A bunch of fresh mistletoe may be a symbol of love, but to your
curious cat or canine, tempting red berries look more like a
sweet treat. Eating the leaves and berries could cause a drop in
blood pressure. Ivy can cause diarrhea, convulsions and in some
cases even death when eaten in large quantities. Traditional
holiday plants are best kept away from inquisitive animals.
Tinsel and Lights
A flickering flame and shiny decorations intrigue companion
animals. When lighting and once lit, the Menorah, Advent wreath
or decorative candles, keep pets in another room where paws and
claws can't reach them. With electrical lights, remember to tape
exposed electrical cords to walls or the floor to ensure no
chewing or tripping. Also use Bitter Apple, a product that
imparts a bitter taste to an object to discourage your pet from
chewing on dangerous cords. Tinsel and gift-wrap may look like
fun toys but they can cause choking, upset stomach or even more
Visions of Sugar Plums
Dogs may love to sniff your holiday goodies but theobromine, an
ingredient found in chocolate, is toxic. Don't ever offer dogs
chocolate as a treat. If your dog develops a sweet tooth and
discovers an improperly stored stash, it could lead to tragedy.
Keep dogs' jaws busy with holiday rawhide candy canes and
oversized bones. If he or she shows signs of illness such as
vomiting, loss of appetite, or excessive water intake, contact
your veterinarian immediately. Proper nutrition and plenty of
fresh water are essential to your companion animal's winter
Let it Snow
Pets, especially very young and older animals, can suffer stress,
frostbite and hypothermia when their body temperature drops just
a few degrees below normal. The tips of the ears, feet and tail
are commonly affected areas. Watch for the formation of ice balls
between your companion animal's toes and regularly trim the long
hair between the footpads to avoid frostbitten feet. If you
suspect frostbite, do not rub the area but simply apply warm
moist cloth packs and contact your veterinarian.
Automotive antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which causes
rapid and permanent kidney damage to your companion animal if it
ingests even a very small amount. It takes only 6 milliliters or
less than 1/4 ounce of antifreeze to kill an average-sized cat. A
cat can walk through an antifreeze puddle and ingest it while
cleaning its paws. For a dog, it takes only 60 milliliters or
about 2 ounces of antifreeze to kill a 30-pound pup. A dog could
ingest this much with a few laps out of an open container or from
a puddle on the garage floor.
Home for the Holidays
If your pet cannot be in the house with you, a proper shelter can
be a lifesaver for a chilly dog or feline. When selecting a
doghouse or shelter for your cat, the space should be only as
large as necessary for the animal to maneuver comfortably, since
the animal's own body heat will serve as a heater. You will have
one chilled Chihuahua if he or she is hanging out of a
Doberman-sized doghouse. Nitrogen plastic insulated pet house
work well to keep the heat inside the house with the animal. Some
houses even have an offset door that provides additional
protection of your companion animals from winter drafts.
Remember, the best present you can give your pets this holiday season is good health and some extra love and attention.